Political changes mark the fall of 1978

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By Mary-Ellen Godfrey

Special to The Guardian

There was plenty of uncertainty in Prince Edward Island politics in the fall of 1978.

The Guardian on November 11, 1978, which was 30 pages long and cost 20 cents, had two front-page stories about political change, which affected both the provincial and federal political scenes.

The top story of the day tackled the federal election that was expected the following year and discussed which candidates had been selected. The focus of the story was on the fact that the only candidate who had not been nominated was the Liberal candidate in Cardigan. The MP for Cardigan at the time was then Veterans Affairs Minister Dan MacDonald.

In the story, MacDonald explained, "it had always been his custom to wait for an election call before holding a nominating convention." The Guardian reported that while MacDonald had already assured his executive that he would run again, there had been speculation that he would accept a Senate seat.

MacDonald denied the Senate idea, claiming that at 60 he was too young to accept a seat in the red chamber. MacDonald had been elected to the provincial legislature in 1962 and he represented 1st Kings for 10 years as an MLA. He was also provincial minister of Agriculture and Forestry from 1966 until he stepped down in 1972.

After he resigned provincially, MacDonald ran in the 1972 federal election and following his election was named minister of Veterans Affairs.

According to The Guardian, in November of 1978, MacDonald had told reporters in Ottawa that he might seek the leadership of the provincial Liberal party, as P.E.I. Premier Alex Campbell had resigned in September. MacDonald had previously denied the idea of being provincial leader twice when asked by The Guardian if he would be interested in the job and the paper reported that few political observers believed he would try for the leadership.

Those political observers would prove to be right, as MacDonald never did put his name forward to be provincial Liberal leader, but he did run again federally in Cardigan. MacDonald lost his seat in 1979, but was re-elected in 1980 in a federal election. After that election, he also regained his post as Veterans Affairs minister and held it until his death on September 30, 1980.

The second political story of November 11, 1978 on The Guardian's front page was an interview with Alex Campbell, who had announced his resignation as provincial Liberal leader and as MLA two months previously.

The headline for the story stated that Campbell was considering not resigning his seat and that he might continue to serve the provincial legislature as a representative for 5th Prince. Campbell said there could be jobs that might make it possible for him to continue to be an MLA, describing his future as "a step down, but not out."

He also said he had not yet communicated his letter of resignation as an MLA to the Speaker of the House, although he had made arrangements when he resigned to stop further payments of remuneration.

He admitted he was not sure if he had delayed the letter because, "I'm looking around for a job now that I'm back from my holiday. I'm not certain whether future employment prospects are consistent with my continuing as MLA. Obviously some avenues would eliminate the possibility of continuing as MLA whereas others might be compatible with serving 5th Prince."

In the story, Campbell declined to comment on whether he was aspiring to gain a seat on the P.E.I. Supreme Court and said his future plan had yet to be determined. "It's a wide open book and I haven't the faintest idea what I might be doing a few months down the road but I will be looking for something that offers a personal challenge and obviously ... most certainly, I want to remain a resident of Prince Edward Island and so my search will at least be limited to employment opportunities which will permit myself and my family to continue our residence here in the province."

The Guardian noted that Campbell and his wife were in Florida for the major portion of their holiday with stops along the coast on their way home.

"We came home a day early ... we couldn't wait to get back."

Campbell was appointed to the P.E.I. Supreme Court in November 1978 and served there until his retirement in December 1994.

Mary-Ellen Godfrey is a freelance journalist who is completing a master of arts degree focusing on Island history. Throughout the year she will be contributing articles examining P.E.I. issues and happenings covered during the 125-year history of The Guardian.


Organizations: The Guardian, Veterans Affairs, P.E.I. Supreme Court

Geographic location: Cardigan, Prince Edward Island, Ottawa Florida

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